Louisiana-Lafayette softball coach Michael Lotief knew that if Samantha Walsh got the pitch she wanted, something was going to happen in the bottom of Wednesday’s seventh and final inning.
“If she got a pitch middle in, she was going to pull it, she’s got that kind of power,” Lotief said. “She wasn’t going to be swinging for a base hit.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns third baseman got that middle-in pitch to lead off the seventh and deposited it into the left-center bleachers at Lamson Park to give UL-Lafayette a 5-4 victory over state rival McNeese State.
Walsh’s homer — her fifth of the year and her second in the last three games — snapped a 4-4 tie and gave the 17th-ranked Cajuns (31-7-1) their 16th win in their last 17 games heading into an eight-game road trip.
Walsh had delivered a key three-run homer Saturday in the Cajuns’ 6-2 win over 15th-ranked South Alabama in a Sun Belt Conference game.
“She’s worked hard and she’s confident,” Lotief said. “She wanted to be in that situation.”
The Cowgirls (30-12), who are 29th in the most recent NCAA RPI listings and are likely also headed for NCAA regional play, had rallied from a 4-2 deficit with two unearned runs in the sixth inning. UL-Lafayette pitcher Christina Hamilton (16-1) got out of that inning and also stranded a runner in the seventh.
Walsh led off the bottom of that inning against McNeese ace Jamie Allred (19-6), who had come on in relief of starter Rachel Smith in the fourth. She worked the count to 3-2 before her game-winning homer.
“She (Allred) kept jamming me in, but she kept coming back to that,” said Walsh, whose RBI single in the third had given UL-Lafayette the two-run lead. “I was just lucky that I got another one inside.”
The Cowgirls, who had won nine of their last 10 and 14 of their last 16, left six runners stranded in the final three innings. McNeese had at least one baserunner in every inning and center fielder Alanna DiVittorio scored in both the first and third innings while reaching base four times.
“That’s a good team,” Lotief said of the Cowgirls. “They put a lot of pressure on you defensively the way they move the ball around, and they get a lot of traffic on the bases. They make you play well to get out of innings.”
A walk, a stolen base and a ground ball set up Emily Vincent’s RBI grounder that plated DiVittorio in the first, but Haley Hayden walked with one out in the bottom of the inning and Lexie Elkins poked her 13th homer of the year into the left-field seats for a 2-1 lead.
McNeese tied it in similar fashion in the third when DiVittorio singled, stole second, was sacrificed to third and scored on Ashley Modzelewski’s sacrifice fly to tie the game. However, the hosts again erupted in the bottom of that inning when Hayden drew a one-out walk, Elkins doubled off the left-field wall and Hayden scored on a throwing error from the outfield. Elkins scored moments later on Walsh’s single to right field for the 4-2 lead.
Hamilton, who scattered seven hits and fanned four, pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth. However, one-out singles by Kim Kennedy and Dakota Matiko and a sacrifice bunt put two Cowgirls in scoring position in the sixth. After a walk to DiVittorio, Lauren Langler’s ground ball was thrown away in an attempted putout at second base as Kennedy and Matiko each scored.
Hamilton got out of the inning with a fly ball and the Cajuns put pressure on Allred in the sixth with a base hit and a hit batter before an inning-ending fly ball. Hamilton also fanned two in the top of the seventh to set up Walsh’s game-winning homer.
“That one felt really good,” Walsh said. “It seems like all the work is finally paying off. It couldn’t come at a better time.”